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Your Child’s Development: 3 Years

Doctors use certain milestones to tell if a preschooler is developing as expected. There's a wide range of what's considered normal, so some children gain skills earlier or later than others.

Kids who were born prematurely may reach milestones later. Always talk with your doctor about your child's progress.

Here are things preschoolers usually do by this age:

Communication and Language Skills

  • say first name when asked
  • talk with you in conversation with at least 2 back-and-forth exchanges
  • ask who, where, or why questions
  • say what action is happening in a picture when asked, like running, eating, or playing
  • talk well enough for others to understand most of the time

Movement and Physical Development

  • string items together, like large beads or macaroni
  • put on some clothes by themselves
  • use a fork

Social and Emotional Development

  • calm down within 10 minutes after you leave
  • notice other children and join them to play

Cognitive Skills (Thinking and Learning)

  • draw a circle when you show them how
  • avoid touching hot objects, like a stove, when you warn them

When Should I Call the Doctor?

You know your child best. So share your concerns — even little ones — with your child's doctor.

If your preschooler is not meeting one or more milestones or you notice that your child had skills but has lost them, tell your doctor.

To learn more about early signs of developmental problems, go to the CDC’s Learn the Signs. Act Early program.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: 01-05-2022

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